Make-believe parliamentarians raise real issues in Lucknow

November 20th, 2008 - 8:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Nov 20 (IANS) The make-believe parliamentarians at the children’s parliament held in the state legislative assembly here Thursday raised a host of issues ranging from lack of school teachers in Rae Bareli to harassment of street urchins in Varanasi.Present as special invitees to this ’special session’ were the state assembly Speaker Sukdev Rajbhar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Lalji Verma as well as opposition legislators Lalji Tandon and Om Prakash Singh.

The Central Hall was arranged to look like a miniature assembly. There were the marshals, the legislative reporters, galleries for the media and public.

The only difference was that instead of one, there were two speakers - Narendra representing the boys and Reena representing the girls.

The two were ‘elected’ by the 70 under privileged children drawn from various parts of the state.

It was perhaps one of the first children’s parliament to be held in the Central Hall of any state legislative assembly.

Organised by ‘Children First’ - a consortium of 40 odd NGOs of Uttar Pradesh working for child rights, this novel initiative was undertaken in collaboration with UNICEF and Action Aid on Child Rights Day.

At sharp 11 a.m. the house proceedings began with the two child speakers and 70 child legislators taking their seats. The two assembly reporters took down the minutes that would be forwarded to the various legislative committees for appropriate action.

The issues ranged from poor health facilities, education, and civic amenities in rural areas to issues of child prostitution, child sexual abuse, gender and caste discrimination and police high-handedness on working children.

BJP legislator Om Prakash Singh, who sat through the hour long proceeding, said: “This parliament is much more fruitful than any of the bigger parliament sessions.” He also supported the popular demand for a state commission for children.

Samphe Lahlunpa, UNICEF state representative, said: “This was an excellent forum for disadvantaged children to pour out their heart before their leaders.”

Triveni, a street urchin from Varanasi, spoke of the harassment that kids of his kind faced at the hands of the police at railway stations. They also narrated heart-rending tales of the suffering they undergo due to the lack of medicine, food and homes.

Latika from Rai Bareli brought to the fore the lack of teachers in the schools in the district. She also emphasised upon the need for appointment of more women teachers to take up sensitive issues like sex education.

Mohammed Salman from Barabanki made a strong case for a children’s commission to be constituted, mentioning how due to lack of electricity children from his district were unable to study or pursue higher education.

While Dhirendra from Lakhimpur Kheri touched everyone’s heart when he spoke about the discrimination that handicapped children face in admission to educational institutions, Rakesh from Lucknow brought up an issue of female foeticide.

Manoj Kumar from Kushinagar spoke of the problem of child labour and how it was affecting hundred’s of children in his district.

Saira Bano from Varanasi drew the attention of the house to the odds encountered by children of sex workers, while Nisha spoke about the severe abuse that girls were often subjected to by eve-teasers.

Appreciating the effort made by UNICEF and Action Aid and expressing full support to the demand for a Children’s Commission, Speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar said: “Some very relevant issues had been touched upon in the children’s parliament which deserved to be taken up on a higher government decision making level.”

Senior BJP Leader Lalji Tandon felt ”the children’s parliament has brought up the true face of the society and its time we must address the issues at once.”

Augustine Veliath, communication specialist, UNICEF Lucknow, called the debut session of the children’s parliament as an event that would go down in history.

“The convention for child’s rights which was drawn up 19 years ago on 20 November by UN members from all over the world lists the right of every child to be heard. The children’s parliament was an effort in this direction,” he said.

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